This afternoon, the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee completed work on the Energy Policy Modernization Act of 2015 and sent the comprehensive Bill to the full Senate. We do not expect final Senate action before the logjam of funding bills and essential long term reauthorizations are addressed by Congress, either late this year or even early next year.
The Bill's Weatherization title contains a welcome 5-year reauthorization at $350,000,000 yearly. It also includes two provisions that give us concern. We expect to be able to make significant improvements before final passage. They are:
- The Bill requires the Energy Department to use at least 2% of the appropriation [and more when appropriations exceed $255 million] to fund competitive grants to multi-state affordable housing [or multi-state weatherization] non-profits to demonstrate leveraging with volunteers, donations and funding partners, and
- Sets 'standards' for WAP workers that refer to out-of-date programs and that are lower than the standard work specifications now in use.
NCAF has defined three levels of outcomes that would advance the Weatherization Program further than would these provisions:
In the best case - at the point in 2016 when two comprehensive energy bills have been reconciled by a House-Senate Conference Committee into a final package - the final Bill will contain the same line re-authorizing the program and will also contain a top to bottom updating of the WAP. The updating provisions will follow along the lines our network agrees on after reviewing the product of NCAF's consultations with you. [Expect a comprehensive package in six or seven weeks.]
Second best is enactment of only the line reauthorizing the program at $350 million. A subsequent Bill can make programmatic changes without facing the challenges and delays that confront any legislation with large sums authorized.
Our third choice is that the grants described in the Senate Bill are something the Secretary may do, but is not mandated and no sums are authorized unless the program reaches $230 million, the pre-ARRA level.